March 1, 2018 | By Ted Kade

If you’re in the market for an SUV there’s certainly no shortage of vehicles to choose from these days, either new or used. But many of today’s sport utility vehicles are purchased to serve as modern equivalents of station wagons and minivans and the only time they’ll go “off-road” is when the owner pulls into a shopping center parking lot.

So we at Auto Restorer were very interested to find that a number of folks in the U.S. and Canada prefer an authentic, vintage SUV that they intend to use as a daily driver and an off-road vehicle as well. These people aren’t restorers, however, so they’ve turned to a UK company called Arkonik, Ltd. that specializes in the restoration of the Land Rover Defender D90 and D110 models. Arkonik, located in the village of Mells in southwestern England, seeks out Defenders that are 15 to 25 years old and then “performs a full restoration while retaining as much of the original vehicle as possible, to render a ‘better than new’ vehicle tailored to clients’ exact specification.”

Before we go any further, however, be aware that a Defender that has received what the company calls “the Arkonik treatment” calls for a fairly healthy wallet on the part of the buyer. Prices start at around $100,000 and go up from there depending on the type of vehicle you’re envisioning for your garage.

Arkonik has been in the Defender restoration business since 2007 and it now offers what it calls “three levels of service.” With its “Origins” package, you’ll receive an “immaculately restored, authentic Defender.” Moving on to the “Editions” level, you’ll “enjoy enhanced features” ranging from exterior/interior trim and finish to powertrain options. Or you can “commission a completely custom build with the Bespoke service.”

The Arkonik Approach

Over the past 10 years, Arkonik has purchased, or “rescued” as they put it, more than 2000 Land Rover Defenders and many of their buyers are in North America.

“The Defenders we choose to purchase have often been resting quietly in private ownership and are a joy for us to buy,” the company said in a statement. “It is wonderful to know that there are still more out there, sitting and waiting for us to come to their rescue…”

Once acquired, a vehicle is matched with a waiting buyer and then rebuilt according to the customer’s wishes. (While at any given time Arkonik may have a completed vehicle on hand available for immediate purchase, most customers want their Defender built to order and have to wait several months to a year or more for delivery of their SUV.)

The Project Is Underway

Restoration begins with the Workshop Team that disassembles the donor Defender “to its bare bones,” identifies areas in need of repair, and then begins the framework restoration. A reconditioned engine, either a V-8 or 2.5-liter turbo diesel, is placed into the Defender and “the Team always enjoys standing by to hear it roar into life again for the first time.” It’s then time to build the Defender back up with a new or reconditioned transmission, wiring harness, suspension, axle internals, exhaust, prop shafts, steering and brakes.

The Panel Shop Team strips all paint from the aluminum body, removes old bolts and old body parts, all panels (old and new) are smoothed, coated and adjusted prior to the first primer coats being applied.

Customers are offered an array of paint colors and finishes to choose from. But before the chosen color is applied, the vehicle receives one coat of etch primer and five coats of primer. The vehicle is then masked and finished with a gloss or matte paint finish.

Virtually any color a buyer requests can be created along with added effects including mica, pearl and metallic additives. Just as at Land Rover, Arkonik paints each individual panel. The roof, doors, fenders, hood, side panels, etc. are individually treated meaning that when the vehicle is reassembled there is a factory finish.

Next up is the Trim Shop, where the customization process really starts to take shape. Vehicles may receive custom parts and interior trim, and a range of accessories.

The vehicles’ panels and doors, all with brand-new seals, are reassembled, followed by acoustic insulation in the tub, footwells and roof lining.

Photo Finish

Once completed, each Defender is taken “to a unique location” and photographed. “England offers a wide range of picturesque landscapes to choose from,” the company said. “It is Land Rover country, after all!”

Ask the Man Who Owns One

As for customer response, one owner stated: “Now that I’ve put over 3000 miles on my Defender 110, I am even more fascinated than when he arrived, and look forward to our daily drives and weekend adventures. I would recommend them to anyone who is looking to create more than just a shiny toy (although it does turn a lot of heads) but a true off-road and work vehicle that will be with you and your family for many years of adventure.” If you’re interested in a restored Defender of your own, visit

–Ted Kade, Editor